78 days until Eurovision.
This is the season for choosing national entrants. The deadline is March 13; every candidate will have picked an entrant by March 10. Only a few countries have already made their choice. So, over the next three weeks, millions of people in over 30 countries will be choosing their national representatives.
It’s awe-inspiring, really.
First thoughts on this year’s contest below the fold.
Eurovision ’07 will be held in Helsinki, Finland, on May 12. It will have the largest number of participants ever: forty-two.
There will be four new members appearing for the first time: Georgia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Montenegro. As everyone knows, Serbia and Montenegro appeared for two years as “Serbia and Montenegro”, then didn’t appear last year — they couldn’t agree on an entry — and are now appearing as separate countries. The Czechs have inexplicably sat out Eurovision since splitting from Czecheslovakia a decade ago, but they’ve finally come to their senses. (That leaves Italy as the last major holdout. They haven’t participated since 1997 because Eurovision is too, you know, crappy and vulgar.)
The real new fish is little Georgia, from the distant Caucasus. They have high hopes; their neighbor Armenia entered for the first time last year, and scored a remarkable #8. By next year, all the Caucasus states will be represented — Azerbaijan, currently an associate member, will make its debut then.
In recent years the contest has grown too big for one night. So they split off a semi-final. Now only twenty-four countries compete in the final.
The twenty-four are chosen as follows: France, Germany, Spain and the UK get automatic berths. That’s because they’re Eurovision’s biggest financial contributors.
Then the ten highest scorers from 2006 get berths. Russia, Bosnia, Romania, Sweden… oh, we all know who they are. These countries get to skip over the semi-finals.
That leaves ten berths. 28 countries will fight it out in the semi-finals for these, two days before the final event.
Recent years have seen a spate of first-time winners — every winner since 2001, in fact. And the last six winners have all come from the eastern half of the continent (Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, and Finland). This may reflect simple numbers — there are more countries in the east, and they tend more to vote for their neighbors — or it may be that Eurovision is taken more seriously in Eastern Europe. Whatever the reason, it won’t be surprising if this summer finds another former Soviet Republic anxiously calculating the renovation costs of the Palace of Sport and Culture.
One Eastern European entry we won’t see this year, though: Kosovo. The Kosovars won’t be participating.
Much to their annoyance! For several years now, the Kosovars have been sending bands and singers down to Albania to compete. Alas, the snotty city slickers down in Tirana have refused to pick a single Kosovar. Which has all right-thinking Kosovars really ticked off.
Pause here to contemplate the awesome power of Eurovision: without even trying, it is killing the idea of Greater Albania. How cool is that?
Mm, what else… oh, yes, Lebanon. We all remember the unhappiness in 2005, when Lebanon — entering for the first time — had to withdraw at the last moment. The problem was, Eurovision rules require the participants to broadcast the entire show, including every song; and Lebanese TV would not broadcast the Israeli portion. As a result, they were hit with a three-year ban, and aren’t eligible to enter in 2006, -7, or -8. It remains unclear whether they’ll ever come in.
Anyway, Eurovision: it’s coming. Are you ready?